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Former Nuclear Workers May Be
Eligible for Benefits

The Building and Construction Trades Department (BCTD) of the AFL-CIO is helping streamline the process for workers seeking benefits related to past work at nuclear weapons plants. They are assisting workers verifying employment histories to speed up payment of claims for illnesses that might be tied to work that was done as long ago as World War II.

The BCTD work is being done by the Center to Protect Workers’ Rights (CPWR) and the U.S. Department of Labor to smooth the process so union members will receive the medical and financial help they deserve.

Under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act, which took effect July 31, 2001, former workers who have chronic beryllium disease, radiation-related cancers, and chronic silicosis are eligible for medical care. They or their survivors are also eligible for $150,000.

The process of paying former nuclear workers has been slowed by incomplete Energy Department records showing proof of employment. The Department of Labor has processed more than 47,800 claims in just over two years, but only 9,143 have been paid.

If DOE records do not prove a worker’s employment at a weapons plant, the Department of Labor can use Social Security, union records or statements from coworkers or other contacts. For help with union records, the Department of Labor has contracted with CPWR, with assistance from the University of Cincinnati Medical School, Zenith Administrators, and affiliated building trades unions.

CPWR and its partners are searching local-union dispatch, health and welfare, and pension records. Some local unions have records from the mid-1950s. The program runs through June 2004.

To learn about the compensation program, call 1-888-859-7211.

In a separate program, CPWR, the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, Duke University Medical Center, Zenith, and local Building Trades councils since 1998 have conducted free screenings of more than 4,500 former construction and maintenance workers at some DOE nuclear facilities to find possible health hazards related to past work. The screenings are continuing for workers at Savannah River, Oak Ridge, and Hanford, and have recently been expanded to Paducah, Kentucky, and Portsmouth, Ohio. Information from the screenings can help a worker decide whether to file a claim with the Department of Labor.

Time is limited for the screenings and the compensation program. To learn more about the screenings, call 1-800-866-9663.

Safety Poster

April 2004 IBEW Journal